FILE - In this Monday, Jan. 14, 2019 file photo, protestors gather on the streets during demonstrations over the hike in fuel prices in Harare, Zimbabwe. 2019 is already a busy year for internet shutdowns in Africa, with governments ordering cutoffs as soon as a crisis appears. Zimbabwe ordered a “total internet shutdown” in recent days during protests over a dramatic fuel price increase and a resulting deadly crackdown. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi, File)
DURBAN - The law society of South Africa (LSSA) is deeply concerned about developments in Zimbabwe and it urges the Zimbabwean government to normalise the situation imme- diately.

Chaos erupted when the country’s citizens held a three-day shutdown sparked by the government’s announcement of its drastic 150% fuel hike.

Video footage of the riots and disorder were shown to the world through social media sites, which led to the Zimbabwean authorities issuing a directive for a shutdown of the internet until further notice.

There is a high court application brought by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Zimbabwe Chapter) challenging the government’s shutdown of the internet.

Citizens have the freedom to assemble peacefully without fear of violent arrest or death.

We also strongly support freedom of expression and believe that internet shutdowns cut off access to vital information.

An internet shutdown does not restore order; it does the contrary. It disrupts the free flow of information and hides human rights abuses from the public.

There have also been reports of unlawful and violent arrests of citizens who participated in the protests. We urge all parties to refrain from violence.

We stand with our Zimbabwean colleagues who are defending the Zimbabwean people’s freedoms, both through the high court application and in courts throughout the country where people may have been unlawfully arrested.